Shipston travelled away to Old Leamingtonians on Saturday with the aim of cementing their place towards the top of the league and continuing their run of good form. With Storm Brian in full flow the conditions were tricky for both sides, but the Rams expected to have the better of the opening exchanges with the strong wind at their backs. OL's had different ideas however and flew out of the blocks from the first whistle, catching Shipston cold and repeatedly beating them to the breakdown. Frustration grew for the visitors as a number of penalties allowed the home side to work their way up the pitch and gain easy territory despite the howling gales.
It was an error strewn first half with plenty of scrums for the forwards to lock horns and the only scoring opportunity for Shipston was through a penalty just inside the OL's half. With the wind at his back, Sam Cooper calmly slotted it home to give the Rams a 3-0 lead, a lead that they maintained until the break.
After some stern words from coach Alex Ray at the break, Shipston knew that they would need to work extremely hard against the wind if they were to get anything out of the match. With kicking from hand not an option, they adopted a 'pick and go' game around the fringes to keep hold of possession and work their way up the field. OL's began to get frustrated themselves and gave away a number of penalties of their own to allow Shipston good field position. From a scrappy line out in the OL's twenty-two, the Rams found themselves within a couple of metres of the try line. Some strong work around the breakdown allowed Aaron Neal to go burrowing his way over the line to get the first try of the afternoon and push Shipston 8-0 in front.
A rejuvenated and fired up Shipston pack began to really get the better of OL's at the ruck and some strong ball carrying from the likes of Neal, Charlie Hollies-Everett and Harry Barnard allowed the Rams to work their way up the field once more. After a number of tight phases in the middle of the park, Shipston spun the ball wide out to space and centre Tobi Faulkner stepped inside the covering defender to dot down for his sides second try of the match. With the score at 13-0 the Rams were looking strong with the last quarter of the game to go.
OL's did manage to get a score of their own and make it a tense last 15 minutes for the travelling supporters after capitalizing on a poor error from Shipston deep within their own half. A speculative off-load in the Rams' twenty-two went to floor and was picked up by OL's with only 10 metres to the try line. Some frantic covering defence was not enough and the home side managed to sneak over for their first and only try of the game - 13-5 to the vistors.
The score seemed to galvanize Shipston once more and they soon found themselves back in the OL's half. A break from Matt Corby in the middle of the pitch was well supported by James Pither and it allowed the Rams to make good yards deep into the opposition territory. George Wilcock, who had come on at back row to replace the injured Oli Ball, was having an excellent game, working tirelessly at the breakdown to secure good ball for the Rams. After another mini break from Will Hammond Shipston were just inches from the line, when James Pither used his increased bulk to power his way over the line and score the Rams' third try of the afternoon.
At 18-5 the game was all but over but Shipston were still determined not to let OL's get over the line again. The last 5 minutes were spent with the home side camped deep into the Rams' half but the visitors were resolute and showed real spirit to keep their hosts out. Their dogged and determined defensive efforts were rewarded with a penalty after the OL's players went off their feet at the ruck and Shipston were able to boot the ball off the park and pick up a deserved victory!
It was an excellent second half display from the Rams as they controlled the pace of the game and worked tirelessly in defence to keep OL's at bay. There are a number of candidates for MOTM this week, with the likes of Aaron Neal, George Wilcock and Josh Bird all having strong games for the Rams, but this week it must go to Charlie Hollies-Everett. He was the real engine behind the forward pack and pushed his side into good positions with his strong carrying and formidable work rate.
As always we would like to thank the strong army of travelling supporters who braved the wet and windy conditions to come and cheer us on again, it is always greatly appreciated! The Rams travel away to Harborne next week in the third round of the Senior Vase, looking to take that next step on the road to Twickenham.